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The Platypus is stranger than you think.

Platypuses have no nipples.  After the young hatch, the mother oozes milk from the pores all over her body.

The male platypus has a poison barb on the inside of its hind legs.  The purpose of this weapon is uncertain.

While often compared to the beaver, the platypus is only about 20 inches in length -- more comparable to the size of the muskrat.

The Platypus bill is actually just an elongated muzzle covered with much the same kind of tough skin found on a dog's nose.  This bill contains an electrically-sensitive organ that can detect the electrical signatures of the small aquatic animals it eats.

Crashing in the name of science PDF Print E-mail
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Written by remcook   
Jan 13, 2005 at 08:53 AM

Making a crater into a comet with your spacecraft may not sound like a very good idea, but yesterday a mission was launched that will do just that. On purpose. All in the name of science.

It's not often a good thing when spacecraft smash into solar system bodies. Take for instance the Beagle-2 mission. This spacecraft was supposed to land on Mars and do all kinds of experiments there to find clues for live on the red planet. Beagle-2 landed alright, but the landing was probably not particularly soft. Although the cause of the Beagle-2 failure will maybe never be discovered, there is a large chance the poor thing is now buried in a small crater on Mars. A crater it has made for itself.

But making craters can also make good science. Yesterday, a mission called Deep Impact was launched from Cape Canaveral to do  exactly such a thing. The scienists and engineers who made up the mission name made no effort to conceil the true purpose of the mission. It is meant to make a big hole on some piece of rock that's flying through the solar system. This rock also has a name: it is the comet Tempel 1. This comet makes its orbit around the sun every five and a half years and it will never come very close to the Earth. On 4th of July of this year (and what better day to blow things up?) a piece of the Deep Impact spacecraft, the impactor, will let go of its mothership and will intercept the comet at tremendous speed. Although the impactor is only 370 kg, the enormous speed of 23,000 mph will let it explode like it were 4.5 tons of TNT.

Besides being a great deal of fun, why would you want to send something to make a crater on a comet? Well, first of all, we know very little about comets. We know even less about what the inside of a comet looks like. Is it a strong material? Is it a bunch of small rock held only lighly together by gravity? We don't know. And scientist that study the origin of the solar system, including the Earth itself, would very much like to know what the inside of a comet looks like. This is because comets are probably made out of the same materials that the Earth and other planets are also made out of. This is very old material. An impact on a comet would serve two main purposes: firstly, it will peel away the outer layers of the comet, exposing the inside. Secondly,you can see how the comet react and see how strong the comet is.

So, how measure the inside of the crater when you just parked your spacecraft rather rudely inside the comet? That's where the mothership comes in. The impactor is only a small piece of the whole Deep Impact mission. The spacecraft that will do most of the measuring will be at a safe distance when the crater is formed. It will make pictures and will determine the composition of the comet and the crater. The impactor itself will also make pictures as it will fall to its death. This will show very small details of the comet.

After watching the impactor go into the comet, the mothership will go closely past the comet. Because comets have a cloud of rubble and dust surrounding them, the mothership will have a shield, which it will turn towards the comet. After the rough part is over, it will look back at the comet again, but will be quickly drifting away from Tempel 1. After a day, the two will go their seperate way, never to see eachother again.

So, when you are watching the Indepence Day fireworks, there will be more fireworks in the sky. It will be too small to see with the human eye, but it will likely make a deep impact in the science community.

{mos_smf_discuss:Space Flight}

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